Tuesday, 20 May 2014

So the site which is supposed to record

our health records is not being used? Well, it only cost a billion dollars didn't it? I mean, let's face it, who is going to "opt in" and put their health records up for the world to see?
It was an idea brought in by the previous government. The idea was that everyone's health records would be instantly accessible by a doctor anywhere in the country. If you needed to visit a doctor while on holiday in another part of the country they would be able to access your health records. If you had an accident then the doctor in emergency would have instant access to your records.
It sounds like a good idea but of course, like many good ideas, it has not worked out quite the way it was intended. Are you surprised? I'm not surprised.
Apparently only about a million people have taken up the "offer". I suspect that those people are mostly those who travel regularly or have moved from one state to another and, in addition, have medical conditions that require a regular trip to the doctor. There may be some public servants and others "in the know" who have done it. The GP clinic we attend has not mentioned it to us. I am not surprised by that either.
One of the reasons it has not worked is that it has been an "opt in" and most people will not opt into anything like that. If they are going to the doctor then they will be concerned by the reason for going to the doctor, not their medical records being stored somewhere else.
Then there is the privacy issue. Nothing is secure so medical records would not be private. Most people, including myself, would prefer my medical records remained private. My medical history is nothing to be ashamed of but I don't really want it to be broadcast to the world.
There are other people, those who have had an abortion, a sexually transmitted disease or a mental illness who might, quite rightly, object to having their records centrally stored. If records were hacked and that sort of information was broadcast it could have a devastating effect on someone.
Then there is the accuracy of records. Doctors don't always record information accurately. They can, because they are only human, make mistakes. The records would need to be kept up to date - and since when do most people keep administration up to date?
And there is the issue of honesty as well. Is a doctor going to write an honest opinion of someone knowing that it has the potential to go out into the wider world? Personally I would not be writing anything negative about a patient - perhaps something about how difficult or rude or uncooperative they are - if I thought there was any chance of it being accessed by Jo or Jodie Hacker.
There is now a suggestion that the site should be "opt out" rather than "opt in". I have no doubt that, if the suggestion is taken up, the "opt out" option will be made difficult. There will be some sort of penalty for opting out - a reduction in benefits perhaps or the requirement to pay more for health services?
And when the Hackers succeed in accessing records, as they surely will, and make them public or use them to deny someone health or life insurance, a job or some other service then I am sure the government of the day will shrug. The courts will find a way around the issue for them as well.
We already have what amounts to a de-facto ID card in this country. It is our Medicare card. Perhaps it could just include information about where the patient's records are held - and a means to access them at request? Such a system won't be perfect but more people might accept that.
In the meantime I carry a card provided by the ambulance service. I trust that is the sensible alternative?

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